step into the past
by Bob Urie
Because of my questions
I was invited in to the office/file room. The fellow amazed me. I told him what I was looking
for. Now mind you the file cabinets went full length of the wall (40ft?). He went to the bottom drawer of a cabinet two thirds the way across the
room and pulled out some WWII photos showing the Coast Guards part in the
Normandy invasion. Then moved to
another drawer to get similar material from the Pacific Theatre.
From there I went just across the road to the CGEX. I live in a Navy town and really wanted to get some kind of Coastie stuff
to wear to the Navy Gym.
While crossing the road
I took note that Mellon was in. Well, I thought, I may as well have a
look. I walked past Midgette and then
the full length of the Mellon. My, what a lot of changes were made since my
day. I spoke to the QM of the watch. Knowing
it was still during working hours, I didn’t even expect to be escorted
aboard. I talked to the QMC on the phone and he said I could come
into the CPO Mess. The quarter deck
watch snagged a shipmate and had them escort me to the Mess.
The changes, that I
could see, were the weapons, (more numerous) enclosed antenna that were for
purposes unknown to me. Navigation
and firing control I suppose. The
boats were those inflatable, hard bottom design, with outboards. They are launched with a fish davit with a single line that had quick
disconnect fittings and hit the water manned and motor running. Faster, safer but I doubt they would carry as
I was told that Mellon
and some other WHECs were in the yard undergoing a “life extension” program
for over three years. Mellon
was built in 68 I believe. It was
in Nam in 70, according to the cruise book that was in the Chief’s mess. My word, I had not been aboard her in 26
years. What a reunion.
A few months later I
made arrangements with a fellow that was aboard while I was. He was BMC. He now lives in
Bellingham, WA. We had been talking
about getting together. I told him of the tour I had and we agreed on a day and time
to meet and go see the vessel together.
He drove directly to
the Base, parked and walked up toward the ferry terminal to meet me. I was a little over half way to the
Base. I recognized the Mellon hat
this old guy was wearing. And he
recognized mine that way too. We
walked, talked and got to the Base mess at lunch time. We had a real nice lunch at the Base galley and went over to the Mellon. This time we
went directly to the QM of the Watch and asked to be conducted to the Mess. We spent some time there in the Mess, I showed him the 1970 Crews
Book. That was the year Mellon went
to Nam. We were shown around a little. The crew was all polite and
most of them had an odd little grin. No
one had much time to talk because it was again during working hours. We were taken forward to take a look at the automated 5” gun and aft to
see the Falinx. That’s that cool
new gun that shoots and explodes incoming missiles. My BM buddy pointed out that it would be very difficult to tow any kind
of a ship with that thing in the way.
On our way to the brow
we ran into an officer who spoke to us and admitted that the crew got a kick out
of having a couple of retired Coasties roaming about. Quarters had been held while we were in the mess, I guess they passed to
word that we were old crewmen and quite harmless.
You know, 378s are the
only High Endurance Cutters the Guard has left.
walk those decks with an old shipmate after 26 years was really quite special. It occurred to us that very few of the crew were even born
when we served aboard her.
To Coast Guard Stories